Evolving Agile by acknowledging the critical importance of the cog in the wheel
By Allison Dhuy, Vice President, Operations
In November of 2019, I had the honor of kicking off Scrum Day Philadelphia. The day was aimed at evolving the audience’s Agile mindset, refining their Scrum practice, and engaging in inspired discussions.
When I began to draft my opening remarks for the event, the first words I wrote were, “Many of you here today are a cog in a wheel.” Then I paused. The word “cog” tends to have a negative connotation. “Just a cog in a wheel.” “Simply a cog in a wheel.”
My mission from that point on was to change that negative association and explain the critical importance of the cog.
cog (noun) – a wheel or bar with a series of projections on its edge, which TRANSFERS MOTION BY ENGAGING with projections on another wheel or bar.Source: https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/cog
An engine needs each of its parts to work. It is made up of gears that have wheels and wheels that have cogs. The cog is crucial. It is the inner-workings of the cogs that make the wheels turn, which ultimately make the engine run.
So, keep that in mind when I state many of you are “a cog” in a wheel. You are driven by the needs and wants of the customer whether it be an internal or an external customer.
Customers value responsiveness
Today’s customers are more powerful than ever, and they desire rapid response. They expect to be understood. They want their interactions, products, and services to be personalized. They want to benefit immediately. This is what they value.
In order to meet their demand for value, there is a need to be on – and stay on – the cutting edge. Businesses – and all the wheels, gears, and cogs that power it – are incrementally and continuously evolving and enhancing the products and services that they deliver based on their customer’s feedback.
One strategic response to this demand is to put into practice the Agile framework known as Scrum. Scrum comes into play because delivering value to customers is meant to be the focus of the Scrum team.
So, you may have developers or other makers in your organization say, “Let’s become Scrum practitioners.” Leaders may say, “We’re adopting a new way of working.” If you are lucky, those cog-driven wheels are working together.
But what if they are not? What about the other gears that are meant to interconnect? Think about what your organization requires to succeed — research, accounting, marketing, sales, technology. I’ve filled my whiteboard with a mind map that includes co-dependent gears such as the PMO, skills such as Business Analysis, frameworks like DevOps, and the entirety of activities known as IT Service Management (ITSM).
That’s a lot.
Going Agile is an enterprise-wide effort
I came to realize that “going Agile” is not an initiative that should be applied to teams of developers, nor should it be limited to leadership. If your organization is considering an Agile approach to the delivery of its products and services, it is an effort that inevitably should extend throughout your entire organization and be sustained.
In order to stay in motion like a well-oiled machine and remain relevant to your customers – all aspects of your organization should be engaged. In other words, the engine is most efficient when all the wheels have gears that are aligned and the cogs are working in unison.
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